Special to the Montrose Daily Press

The Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests in partnership with other entities, has begun implementing Great American Outdoors Act funded projects.

The GMUG is working with the National Forest Foundation (NFF), Southwest Conservation Corps (SCC), Western Colorado Conservation Corps (WCCC), Gunnison Trails Group (GTG), and Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association (CBMBA). The funding provided by the act will allow partners to address deferred maintenance for many critical facilities and infrastructure, improving access and visitor experiences on the GMUG.

Great American Outdoors Act, or GAOA, projects focus on improving conditions on forest and rangelands, reducing wildfire risk and increasing the resiliency of our nation’s forests for present and future generations. The GMUG has 17 GAOA projects scheduled for 2021.

Nonmotorized trail reconstruction projects were the first to be implemented. Those trails include National Forest System Trail (NFST) #200–Dallas trail, NFST #702–Coal Creek trail, NFST #444–Sun Park trail and NFST #401–Trail Riders trail. Located on the Ouray Ranger District, NFST#200–Dallas trail was the first project implemented on the long list of GAOA projects for the GMUG.

NFST #200–Dallas Trail

With the help of the NFF and SCC, trail reconstruction work began on the eastern end of the NFST #200–Dallas Trail in June 2021. The retaining walls located in the first section of the steep trail were failing and needed to be replaced. SCC removed aging native timber retaining walls and began constructing new walls using heavy duty treated timbers. The new walls will stabilize and widen the segment of trail. The switchbacks associated with the retaining walls will be brought into design specifications. The reconstruction project is planned to be completed by the end of September.

NFST #702–Coal Creek Trail

The 9.5 mile Coal Creek trail, located on the Grand Valley Ranger District has developed heavy trenching throughout the years. NFF and WCCC began work on the first 3–4 miles of trail beginning at the Wild Rose trailhead. The Coal Creek trail is within close proximity of the newly constructed Palisade Plunge trail. With the possibility of trail connections, new drainages and sediment deposition structures are being installed. These improvements will bring this trail back into specification, increasing the quality of the user experience.

NFST #444–Sun Park Trail

Located on the Gunnison Ranger District, the Sun Park trail connects West Elk Creek to Beaver Creek traveling between Middle and South Baldy Peaks. The trail is very steep in spots and has developed heavy trenching and stability issues. GTG and NFF will be installing hundreds of check dams and water bars in steep sections to rehabilitate this trail, recapturing sediment and reducing erosion potential.

NFST #401–Trail Riders Trail

The GMUG and NFF partnered with CBMBA to complete work on this trail with work beginning in August. CBMBA will be installing new drainage features with an attention to bike friendly design as well as constructing turnpike to mitigate resource damage in sensitive wet areas.

“These projects will help retore lost access to vast areas and improve water quality on the GMUG,” said Forest Supervisor, Chad Stewart. “I am very pleased to see this trail work getting accomplished thanks to Great American Outdoors Act funding. Without this funding, these projects would not be possible.”

In fiscal year 2021, the GMUG was awarded $7 million. The Forest is anticipating additional funding in fiscal year 2022 to complete additional projects at Lake Irwin Campground, Little Bear Campground, Deer Lakes Campground, Blue Lakes Trailhead and the Alpine Tunnel and road. Additional projects are also being funded for fence replacement around 11 campgrounds and multiple toilet replacements across the forest. Improving infrastructure provides a better visitor experience on Forest Service lands.

These projects were made possible by collaboration with National Forest Foundation, Southwest Conservation Corps, Western Colorado Conservation Corps, Gunnison Trails Group, and Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association as well as employees from the GMUG National Forests and funding through the Great American Outdoors Act. For more information GAOA funded projects in the Rocky Mountain region visit here.

For more information on current fire restrictions, conditions and recreation opportunities, visit the forest website or www.westslopefireinformation.com

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